Archaeologists working in a buried Mayan pyramid in Guatemala have discovered an enormous inscribed frieze richly decorated with images of gods and rulers, the Guatemalan government announced.
Dating to the 6th century, the carving has been hailed by local authorities as "the most spectacular frieze seen to date" and one of the best-preserved pieces of Mayan art ever discovered.
It was found at the pre-Columbian archaeological site of Holmul, in the northern province of Peten, by Guatemalan archaeologist Francisco Estrada-Belli below a 65-foot-high pyramid which was built over it in the 8th century.
Measuring 26 feet by nearly 7 feet, the 1,400-year-old carvings decorated the outside of a mysterious multi-roomed rectangular building. Found when Estrada-Belli and his team excavated a tunnel left open by looters, the monumental artwork depicts human figures in a mythological setting, suggesting these may be deified rulers.
"This is a unique find. It is a beautiful work of art and it tells us so much about the function and meaning of the building, which was what we were looking for," Estrada-Belli, a professor at Tulane University's anthropology department, said.